National Geographic Traveler Magazine
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Northern Ireland Holidays

Scenic Discoveries

Ardtara Country House sits in the center of the circle bounded by exciting Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage site and the historic city of Derry. Every tourist attraction from Belfast to the coast – and all airports -- are within 15-60 minutes drive. (Source: Google Maps).

Below you will find a brief description of 10 Popular Scenic Attractions in Northern Ireland which are perfect for Northern Ireland Holidays at Ardtara

Tip -- Get a pre-programmed Ardtara GPS satnav for effortless exploring. See more below. 


Scenic Discovery I -- Giant’s Causeway Coast and Antrim Glens

One of the 8 Wonders of the World…thousands of hexagonal volcanic rocks… Finn McCool…historic steam train…walks and hikes…Bushmills Distillery visit & tour (get a bottle of Bushmills personalized with  your name on the label) …Dunluce Castle (see where the kitchen fell into the Atlantic)…Carrick-a-Rede fishermen’s Cable Bridge across open water to Carrick Island…Cushendall & Cushendun in the nearby Glens of Antrim designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

For more information, see:


Scenic Discovery II -- Belfast Sights and Shops Including the Newly Reopened and Much Acclaimed Ulster Museum

Treat yourself to some of the best shopping in the UK… sample the brew in  historic pubs… the newly re-opened Ulster Museum, located in the Botanical Gardens, is the largest museum in Northern Ireland and home to world-class collections of fine art, archaeology, ethnography, treasures from the Spanish Armada, local history and natural sciences...additionally, the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum shows life in the 18th century “up close and personal” plus historic planes, trains, ships and cars (including the Delorean); see Belfast Castle, with panoramic views from high above the Belfast Lough on Cave Hill (site of the Shirley Maclaine movie about a true love story  involving a WWII  American military plane crash, “Closing the Ring”)… or roam the area of the sectarian murals remembering more troubled times …and don’t forget the Titanic Quarter where shipbuilding achievement is morphing into architectural achievement.

 For more information, see:


Scenic Discovery III -- Historic City of Derry/Londonderry and Lough Foyle  

Take a trip back in time. This city is the best example of a European walled city remaining virtually unchanged since it was built in the 17th Century. You can walk on the top of the wall and look down into the Bogside, itself the scene of modern Irish history. Visit the Tower Museum to see the remnants of Spanish Armada ships sunk off the coast in their desperate attempt to sail home after disaster. Pick up a wireless City Digital Tour Guide at the Tourist Info Centre (44 Foyle St, 7126-7284) to guide you around the town at your own speed.

For more information, see:


Scenic Discovery IV -- Irish Linen Center and Lisburn Museum with Live Demonstrations

From  Flax-to-Fabric museum exhibition (free) tells the story of the Irish linen industry with live demonstrations of hand spinning and handloom weaving, as well as displaying examples of historic linen costumes and furnishings. The Museum Shop sells quality linen and craft goods. Café serves homemade comestibles. Note: a range of Irish linen damask table linen is on sale in the Linen Center Museum Shop --with a flax flower design, it includes cloths, napkins and runners produced by the skilled Center artisans (available nowhere else in the world.)

For more information, see:


Scenic Discovery V -- Rathlin Island – One-Time Smugglers’ Hideaway, Now Puffin Hideaway with Ferry from Picturesque Ballycastle

Sail to the northernmost point in N.I… the only inhabited offshore island in N.I…. Known to the Romans and site of the first Viking landing, this six mile-by-one mile Island in now home to seals plus tens of thousands of seabirds and has been named a Special Conservation Area. Features an RSPB Bird Centre, pub, restaurant, mini bus tours, bike hire and easy walks along spectacular cliffs with vistas of Scotland in the distance.  Great fun. Ferry operates March-October, costs about £21 for 2 pedestrians return (round trip) and can be booked by calling 02820769299.

 For more information, see:


Scenic Discovery VI -- Slemish Mountain and St. Patrick’s Trail (Try Lunch at 18th Century Thatched Roof Tavern, “The Thatch”)

Visit the 1400’ high volcanic plug where St Patrick tended swine as young slave in the fifth century…climbable path to the top in good weather (and good boots)…breathtaking views across most of N.I.…return through Broughshane, the Royal Horticultural Society award-winning Best Mid-Size Garden Village for fireside lunch  in the Thatch. Continue your return through Cullybackey for a quick stop at the ancestral home of the 21st US President, Chester A. Arthur.

 For more information, see:  &


Scenic Discovery VII -- Lough Neagh Boat Tour & Seamus Heaney’s Bellaghy Bawn

The largest inland body of water in Ireland, Lough Neagh has history and drama. Coney Island and Rams Island have hosted 1000 years of monks, nobles and bandits. Public boat tours available on Sundays and Thursdays from Easter to October. Directly on your return route is the Bellaghy Bawn, original home of Northern Ireland’s Nobel Prize winning Seamus Heaney and now featuring of an exhibition of his manuscripts and books. For more information, see:   

For more information, see: 


Scenic Discovery VIII -- Sperrin Mountains Tours and Hikes 

Savor the rugged natural beauty of this dramatic mountainous area…choose up to four primary scenic driving routes around and through … or enjoy a myriad of way-marked hiking trails up and down valleys or over the crests of mountains…9000 years of civilization has left megalith tombs, standing stones, stone circles and alignments plus more “modern”18th century castles often perched on and near the picturesque Rivers Roe, Moyola and Bann. 

For more information, see:  & 


Scenic Discovery IX -- Mussenden Temple, Downhill Beach and 50 Mile Views along the north coast from Donegal to the Giant’s Causeway from the top of Benevenagh Mountain    

Roam the ruins of the 18th century mansion of the so very eccentric Bishop of Londonderry…with circular temple/library perched precariously on the cliff edge over the Atlantic Ocean which hosted the Bishop’s secret trysts… then drive out onto the nearby Downhill Beach and cruise for miles to Benone Beach… then you can drive right up to the top of Binevenagh Mountain for a  most spectacular view across Lough Foyle to Donegal in the west and back along the rugged North Coast to the east … return via Castlerock where you can visit the 300 year old thatched roof Hezlett House (one of the oldest in N.I.) for a feel of life in the 17th century. 

For more information, see:


Scenic Discovery X -- Foyle Ferry to Rustic Donegal in the Republic of Ireland 

Travel (a quick 10 minutes) across the mouth of Lough Foyle from Magilligan Point to Greencastle, Donegal in the Republic of Ireland…take the scenic drive down the Lough back into Northern Irelands second biggest city, Derry/Londonderry and explore the Historic Walled City.  Ferry operates all year, no booking necessary and costs about £20 for a car and 2 pax one way.

For more information, see:  &


For details of Ardtara's Scenic Discoveries special offer, click "Specials". By the way, if you have your own satnav, ask for the list of settings.


Other -- Houses and Gardens 


Mount Stewart 

Northen Irealnd is full of wonderful Homes and Gardens. The most famous and interesting is probably Mount Stewart. The home of Lord Castlereagh, this is a great example of its kind, with unique flora and fauna brought from all around the world. One of Northern Ireland's most popular National Trust properties Celebrated landscaped park: European Garden of Inspiration 2003

International Rose Garden at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park Upper Malone Road, Belfast
More than 25,000 rose bushes make this a blooming marvellous place in summer. During Belfast Rose Week in July, the heady fragrance of floribundas drifts across the park's 130 acres, confirming why Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park has been a world centre of rose expertise for generations.

Ben Varden
This garden one of the most beautiful walled garden's in the British Isles, both vegetables and flowers, cared for by the owner. Pleasant tea room in the old stables.


Special Events

There are numerous exciting events scheduled in Northern Ireland year round: